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What is Trauma Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Trauma therapy can mean many things in terms of what will happen in a therapy session since there are numerous approaches to helping people overcome traumatic experience and post traumatic stress syndrome. In all instances, the term applies to undertaking therapeutic endeavors aimed at relieving the aftereffects of trauma. When people have experienced trauma, they are advised to seek help with a therapist who has worked in this area, since many people will not fully recover from the feelings trauma has caused without some of processing.

A person looking for trauma therapy can hear a lot of different terms describing the approaches of a counselor. Some specialize in EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing), which use recollection of some aspect of the trauma at the same time a person follows a moving object with the eyes. Another term becoming increasingly common is somatic experiencing, a system developed by Dr. Peter Levine, which uses body awareness at different levels to reprogram the body out of the trauma state.

Other trauma therapy methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and a variety of body therapy approaches. Some degree of talk therapy is typically involved too. In children, especially those who can’t stay too focused or discuss at length, play therapy and art therapy are utilized frequently.

Occasionally, people describe therapeutic approaches to trauma as occurring in three stages. The first goal is to deal with the way trauma changes emotional responses and how these altered responses can impact behavior; getting responses to an acceptable level and reducing the negative emotional and/or physical aspects of post traumatic stress to provide more comfort is greatly important. As therapy progresses, the actual trauma must be discussed or in some manner dealt with by techniques like CBT, EMDR, or others. However part of the trauma means people can’t have processed or truly grieved, and there is a grief period as the matter is discussed in full. Once grieving occurs, many people need to start the work of learning how to be a part of the world again.

Each therapist can suggest slightly different models, and simplifying it too much would downplay the serious and difficult work that most people in trauma therapy undergo. The pay off of this therapy, when it is effective, is that people are no longer victims to the experiences that caused them to seek therapy. Those who have had positive experiences with trauma therapy attest the hard work is very much worth the outcome.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon116946 — On Oct 08, 2010

Trauma healing is being used overseas too. Wycliffe Bible Translators is currently working with a lot of war victims all over Africa.

By yournamehere — On Sep 22, 2010

I agree with earlyforest, I think that child trauma therapy has got to be one of the hardest jobs in existence.

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 22, 2010

As far as trauma goes, cognitive behavioral therapy can only work so well if the patient is really ready for it. I think that sometimes inexperienced counselors will try to apply regular counseling therapy rather than cognitive trauma therapy, which can be effective, but which is also simply "too soon" for many patients. That's why techniques like EMDR trauma therapy and somatic trauma therapy can be such good therapy for trauma, since it works at the visceral level that trauma effects.

By EarlyForest — On Sep 22, 2010

I have a friend who is getting into art therapy because she wants to help children who have been through traumatic events. Out of all the mental health therapy techniques, I think that one has got to be one of the hardest, because you not only are usually working with traumatized children, which would just be hard anyway, but you need to have the skills to analyze what they "tell" you in their drawings. I really admire her for taking on such a difficult trauma therapy technique.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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